365 Day Song Challenge: Day 68 – “I Should Be So Lucky”

Day 68: Your least favorite song by an actor turned singer.

“I Should Be So Lucky” – Kylie Minogue

I Should Be So LuckyThere was a time when I was very closed-minded about music. I would turn my nose up based on how a person looked or if their music fell outside of my well-defined musical boundaries. (Kind of like the radio stations I described in yesterday’s post.) For example, there was a time when I hated today’s song just on principle.

I still hate it, so maybe that’s a bad example.

But I no longer hate it on principle, that’s the point. I hate it because it’s just such a horrible song.

I’m pretty sure this is not entirely Kylie’s fault. Word on the street is that her producers wrote the song in 40 minutes while she was sitting outside the studio waiting for them. That would explain a lot.

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Like the crappy lyrics.

And the crappy melody.

And the crappy keyboard voices.

In 1988, when I was on student exchange in Australia this song was everywhere. Thankfully, it was fading from popularity by the time I left for home… just in time for it to peak on the charts in the US. This was not the gift I wanted to bring back from Australia. I’d have been much happier with “Electric Blue” by Icehouse or “Pressure Down” by John Farnham. But alas…

A while back there was a post on a song you change the words to. Until this post, I’d forgotten that I used to sing “God this song is yucky. Yucky, yucky, yucky” whenever it came on. Since Kylie was the darling girl of Oz at the time, this didn’t go over well with some people. Oh well, I’m sure they got over it when they, too, realized what utter tripe it is.

The song is a good example of one thing, though: that many producers have an ear for identifying (and writing) songs that are going to catch the public’s ear, no matter how simplistic or outright bad they are. It’s a sad (but true) fact that the music-buying public loves to be told what they should like, and these guys have a knack for making it and telling the public that it is, in fact, what they should like. “L.A.” Reid and Babyface are two prime examples. Churn out some bad tunes, attach them to good-looking singers, make a sexy video and BAM! Hit song.

This is not to say that the producers and performers are not talented. Like Kylie, in many cases they are (no, I’m not talking to you, Nicki Minaj) even if you don’t happen to like what they come out with. But are they really doing everything they can to grow and excel as an artist, or are they just taking the paycheck and staying stagnant? Doesn’t anyone have any artistic integrity anymore?

Anyway, I’ve grown a little bit myself since 1988 in terms of my musical taste and breadth. I’m a lot more tolerant of different musical types outside of my usual “Rock” comfort zone. That’s not to say I’m going to jump for joy over a bad song, and there are still plenty out there. (Yes, this time I am talking to you, Nicki Minaj.)

Now I’ll at least give something a listen (maybe two) before declaring it utter crap.

For those that may have missed it in 1987, here’s “Electric Blue”…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 67 – “The Streak”

Day 67: A song you have requested to be played on the radio.

“The Streak” – Ray Stevens

The Streak

I haven’t requested a song on the radio in many years. Perhaps it’s because I simply don’t listen to the radio except on rare occasions. Perhaps it’s because they never seem to play what I ask for anyway. Or perhaps it’s because radio these days is completely corporate-owned pre-programmed schlock designed to fit exactly into a nice little box, never straying outside the boundaries of that selected, well-defined genre or giving disc jockeys any latitude whatsoever to be human and play something other than the 37 songs currently on the playlist which were selected by a computer (or worse, someone at the record company) to be sure-fire hits.

You’re right, it’s probably the first one.

One of the first things I ever remember requesting was “The Streak.” I was probably 10 years old, and I called WILQ based out of Williamsport, PA to request it. It was the country station my parents listened to. (At least I think it was WILQ. It’s been a long time. The call letters ring a bell, but honestly, this was over 30 years ago.) You could tell the disc jockey had no idea what to do with me. But I seem to recall he said he’d see what he could do.

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Apparently what he could do was… well… nothing. Because he never played it. The big jerk. Whatever happened to humoring the kid?

Regardless, I’ve always liked this novelty. It’s a good song (or at least a good chorus, as there really are no “verses”) in general, but the “eyewitness” character who happens to be everywhere the streaker, uh, “performs” is priceless. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much then: there were a lot of people in that part of Pennsylvania just like that guy. (The eyewitness, not the streaker.) Plus, I guess at ten, the whole thing seemed a little risque.

There are only three other songs I specifically remember requesting:

God knows why I remember these. Chalk another one up for useless trivia taking up brain space that could be used for more important or relevant data.

Like Calculus.

Or Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Or what brand of baloney I like.

I do know I’ve requested more along the way (Songs, not baloney.) Some even got played. But I couldn’t tell you what they are. I guess my brain isn’t completely full of trivia at the expense of real knowledge.


365 Day Song Challenge: Day 66 – “Cosmic Thing”

Day 66: A song you like to clean the house to.

“Cosmic Thing” – The B-52’s*

Cosmic ThingLet’s get one thing straight right from the get-go: I do not enjoy cleaning house. It’s a necessary evil, and I’m not good at it.

I’m the type that lets clutter build up until at some point (well before hoarder stage… at least I hope it’s before hoarder stage) I crack and have to clean. (My home office and desk are very near that point, actually.)

But there does come a time in the spring where it does kind of feel right to clean. So I have to jump on the impulse as soon as it hits, otherwise I’ll just let it go and an opportunity will be lost.

It was my freshman year of college when I discovered the cleaning catharsis of Cosmic Thing.

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At the time, “home” was a dorm room in Stoddard C. (And “home-home” was still my parents’ house, as anyone will tell you.) It was a small room, but it still needed cleaning.

Because every once in a while we’d stumble upon something like an onion dip container that had been “lost” but then recovered from under a bed after 2 months. We were filthy college students, what do you want? (To this day I have no idea why we thought it would be a good idea to wash that instead of just tossing it. I guess at the time the concept of throwing away a “perfectly good” Rubbermaid container was unthinkable to poor college students.)

On one particular day, the temperature was right, it was sunny, and the cleaning impulse hit. Needing music (because you always need music, it’s simply a matter of finding the right music for the situation) I decided to put Cosmic Thing on. It wasn’t planned. It was more of a “I think this will work” moment, but as it turned out, it was a perfect convergence. From that day forward, the combination of cleaning and Cosmic Thing were indelibly burned into my memory.

It was a recent album then. But even today, whenever I think of cleaning, I can picture that day, and I almost feel like I need to put that album on.

Cosmic Thing (the album) is the best thing The B-52’s ever did. It’s by far their most consistent and mainstream album, which some people may think is a bad thing. I disagree. It starts with “Cosmic Thing” (the song) and spends the next 47:12 just having fun. (Since the album starts with the title track, I chose that for today’s topic, although in reality, the whole album really qualifies.) There are no ballads to speak of, (the closest thing is “Topaz” and even then, it doesn’t really fit the criteria) so there’s nothing to bring the mood down, and you just keep moving. It even has an instrumental. (“Follow Your Bliss,” one of my favorite instrumentals.) Perfect for cleaning.

Or, come to think of it, perfect for running away from cleaning. Why have I never thought of that until now?

* I’m forced to deal with the misuse of the apostrophe here since it’s in the name. If I had my way, it would be “The B-52s” but it’s not my band.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 65 – “Find A Way To My Heart”

Day 65: Your favorite song by an actor turned singer.

“Find A Way To My Heart” – Phil Collins

Find A Way To My HeartIt’s funny how your memory can fail you. Like its counterpart—singers turned actors—I looked at this topic and racked my brain trying to come up with candidates. (I do a lot of brain-racking for this thing. I hope it’s not doing permanent damage.) And then even more trying to figure out if those candidates could possibly be a favorite.

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And then it hit me. (That happens a lot too. This whole blog thing is really kinda violent.) Phil Collins started as a child actor! Believe it, it’s true. Now, Phil’s a pretty talented guy, so the path actually goes drummer turned actor turned back to drummer turned singer turned actor. And a bunch of those he did all at the same time. Did you get all that?

But in terms of professional gigs, he was an actor first. He actually appeared in The Beatles film Help! as an extra, but that doesn’t really count as acting. He played the Artful Dodger in theater productions of Oliver Twist (no, not the movie Oliver!, although there is a passing resemblance) but his breakthrough role was in 1967’s Calamity The Cow. (You have no idea how hard it was to type that without laughing out loud. I can’t imagine what would happen if I actually tried to say it.)

At any rate, you can see a clip here. Phil has a close-up at 1:18. Yes, that’s what he looks like with hair. Really bad hair. He may actually be better off that he lost it.

Twenty-two years later he would release an album called …But Seriously. You may not have heard of it. It didn’t sell too well. Only like 4 million copies or something like that in the US. It might have barely charted, too. I can’t remember.

Anyway, for my money, the best song on the album is not any of the four singles that charted in the Top 4 of the Billboard Hot 100. It was the song that closed out the CD (but not the LP, interestingly enough), “Find A Way To My Heart.”

The song starts with a quiet, distorted guitar growl that slowly grows louder. Then a tribal-sounding drumbeat kicks in, and then, finally, at 0:40 the rest of the instrumentation kicks in. The song features a lot of the Phil Collins calling cards. Aforementioned prominent drums. Horns. Lyrics that he belts out too high and loud to reliably recreate in concert.

But its message is simple:

Find a way to my heart
And I will always be with you
From wherever you are
I will be waiting.
I’ll keep a place in my heart
And you will see it shining through
So find a way to my heart
And I will follow you.

It plays to the sappy romantic that I am at heart. Plus, for a love song, it rocks. I guess I like that combination.

Before I remembered the Phil/actor connection, I had some other possibilities:

So, apologies to David Soul. I had to go with someone who could actually sing. Better luck next time.

Hopefully the next few blogs with have less racking and hitting. I need to heal.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 64 – “You’re The One That I Want”

Day 64: Your favorite song featured in a musical.

“You’re The One That I Want”
Olivia Newton-John with John Travolta

061-John-Travolta-Olivia-Newton-John-Youre-The-One-That-I-WantYou may be surprised that I didn’t pick something from The Blues Brothers. In a way, so am I. But The Blues Brothers is not what I would consider a “pure” musical. That is, where the songs are an integral part of the storyline, and actually help tell the story. (The fact that I know that makes me question my masculinity for a tiny second.)

I was not quite eight when Grease came out, and did not see the movie at the time. But I do remember Jolie Garvey’s birthday party in December of that year. I remember it for three reasons:

  1. I won a burping contest.
  2. I ate plaster. (The jury is out on whether I ate it just to eat it, or did it to ease some embarrassment on the part of my friend Mike after he had eaten it first)
  3. The soundtrack from Grease was all the rage with the girls.

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I didn’t care much then, and, outside of hearing “Hopelessly Devoted To You” pretty often during the “slow skates” at the roller rink for a while, I basically forgot about it until the fifteenth anniversary came around. Then there was this whole Grease revival where they re-released the soundtrack and made a big fuss about the movie in general. And that’s when I actually saw it. (Sadly, thanks to HBO, I’ve seen the fairly horrible Grease 2 way more than Grease. We can talk about the merits of “Cool Rider” and “Reproduction” in another post. Or not.)

It was also the first time I cared at all about the music from Grease.

“You’re The One The I Want,” as you probably know, is a rousing tune performed near the end of the movie when Sandy and Danny (Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta) finally get past all the crap and admit their love (and lust). The scene is memorable for its bubbly nature where everyone seems to be having a good time.

The scene with this song was also memorable because (and I may take flack for this) it was the only time in the movie (and possibly ever) that Olivia Newton-John looked hot (hey, look at that, masculinity intact). Sure, pre-Spandex-leggings Sandy was cute, but… man. While I could have done without the cigarette (I’m a fascist when it comes to smoking), that outfit was something. So skin-tight, in fact, that she had to literally be sewn into it. No wonder Danny’s chills were multiplying.

While I can’t discern any musical nods to the 50s that would make sense for its placement in the movie, it’s a good song that has help up remarkably well in the intervening 35 years since the film’s release. In fact, it might have been my choice for favorite duet had I not already had it slated for today’s post. It’s got many of the song elements that I gravitate towards. It’s upbeat; it’s got a decent, sort of sliding bass line; and it has (possibly fake) horns. What’s not to like?

There actually aren’t too many other songs from the soundtrack that I like at all, but there are a couple. None, however, get the plays that this one does. (It’s tied for 14th place on my iTunes “Most Played” list.) So there you have it.

So let the “Olivia Newton-John? Really?” comments begin. It’s okay. I’ve got thick skin.

In case you forgot…